Dear Amy: There seems to be no protocol for what might be expected concerning the presence of an ex-spouse at a memorial service.

My ex-husband, “Bert,” and I were married for 40 years before getting divorced because of his involvements with other women, including a long-term affair with a woman he later married. We have three adult children.

After Bert’s recent death I am feeling a lot of ambivalent emotions (mostly anger) at his hurtful behavior.

Our children want me to attend the service. But what should I do when people offer me their condolences or tell me how wonderful Bert was? I certainly don’t feel like agreeing and thanking them. How do I behave in a dignified way that doesn’t betray my own integrity?

 

Amy says: If you behave in a dignified way, you won’t have to worry about your integrity, because dignity is the outer manifestation of integrity.

Your presence is as a guest of your children, and any attention directed toward you should be deflected toward them. Please leave your ambivalent feelings and anger behind. If you can’t, stay home.

If you do attend, maintain a discreet presence. People are not likely to gush to you about how wonderful your ex-husband was (the gushing is generally not directed toward former spouses). But if they do, you need only say, “Well, I knew him for a long time, and I know he will be missed” (not by you, necessarily).

Just say no to unwanted gifts

Dear Amy: I have a friend I see a few times a year. In addition to bringing me a bottle of wine (so nice of her, albeit unnecessary), she often gives me gifts related to health, to “prevent” illnesses or to shorten the duration of maladies. (I have a complicated health history.)

These are all medical quackery, nothing a doctor would recommend.

I have unsuccessfully tried to discourage her from bringing me these gifts. She and her husband are not doing well financially, and I feel my friend should not be spending her money in this way.

I haven’t had the heart to tell her to take these gifts back when she smilingly presents them to me. I have graciously accepted the gifts and thanked her, but I don’t feel right in doing so. How can I best handle this?

 

Amy says: If you don’t have the heart to send these things back with your friend, then accept with thanks — and simply don’t use them.

However, if you did have the heart (and the guts) to send these things back home with her, then you would likely spare her the expense and effort. You could say, “This is so kind of you. I know you care about me, but I won’t use these things, so I’m going to send them back home with you. Seeing you is the only tonic I need.”

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Send questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com.